By: Mariam Khalil
So just this past weekend I attended the Student Leadership Conference for 2017 for the first time! I must tell you how incredible and unique the experience was.
The Student Leadership Conference was unlike other leadership or political justice conferences I’ve attended before; it was so interactive! Today, I want to write about all the beneficial things I took from the conference and how, as students, we should constantly be on the lookout for events like these to network, increase our self-growth, and expand our knowledge variety.
The conference started out with guest speaker, Kai Cheng Thom, who is a structurally marginalized individual on all fronts but also filled to the brim with so much resilience and admirable empowerment. Kai Cheng Thom has an incredible skill of storytelling, and started off our morning with a relatable story of a woman’s self-growth and the journey to “find her name.” She taught us that in order to know where we are going and our future directions in life, it’s important to know where we came from – our histories, experiences, and stories; the things that combine together to make us who we are today. I felt that this was a beautiful end to the morning as it filled my head personally, with a multitude of levelled self-reflection and within it, a moment of peace to appreciate our ancestors.
You can watch the snapshots I was able to sneak of the artist that is Kai Cheng Thom below:
Later in the day, we attended a personal selection of workshops that could relate to political strategic solutions, being great allies for marginalized groups, facing cultural appropriation, seeking work as a minority student, behavioral interviewing, and my personal favourite (so much so, that it will have its own separate post!) mindfulness . These workshop sessions provided another style of learning that catered to all learning types. Whether you enjoy hands-on-activities, group discussion, or simply listening to an experienced speaker, it had it all! Not only did I learn so much from these sessions, but I also met so many diverse groups of people and got insight into their own stories as well!
We ended the day off by fully embracing our diversity within an African-inspired drumming circle. The drumming circle was the most beautiful part of the experience for me. We were 300 students learning drum beats together, with individualized drums and maracas shaking and banging in empowerment. We were a multitude of people with our own cultures, colours, ethnicities, religions and backgrounds identifying in unity; dancing, drumming and letting loose. It was truly unforgettable.
Amongst other activities (and yes of course pizza!) there were plenty of opportunities to apply personal leadership and diversity inclusion skills that we had just learned.
Often, there is a common misconception that people must be “born” leaders to lead, or that certain personality types are better associated with leadership qualities than others. I learned that this simply isn’t true. This conference has taught me, that not only can anyone be a leader, but that leadership in of itself exists in a multitude of different official and non-official roles.
I invite you this semester to find your strength, (mine is zest!), and pursue and practice it in every opportunity or situation you get, to anyone you meet, within every interaction you can think of. Leadership is like a muscle. Everyone has it within them; it just needs practice and training. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how you’ve underestimated yourself for so long and what you may discover.
Keep leading, Marauders!
Mariam Khalil blogged for the Student Success Centre from 2016 to 2017.